Budgeting for Events

Ashleigh Servadio

by Ashleigh Servadio

As a follow up to our January article which addressed what to consider when taking on a new event, we are taking a closer look in this issue at event budgeting.  While events and/or fundraisers are the often lifelines that can keep non-profit organizations afloat and successful, they also involve commitment, planning and budgeting.  Whether this is your organization’s first or 100th event, establishing the budget is one of the critical components in conducting a successful event.  The bottom line is very simple: Your non-profit’s total earnings from an event must exceed your total cost.   

To begin, I recommend setting a goal of how much the organization wants to profit from the event and then establish all of its estimated expenses. Some ideas of general categories may include: 

  • Building/facility/location (space rental, site use permits, security guards, portable toilets, tents, cleanup costs, parking)
  • Advertising and promotion (posters, invitations, banners, postage, web page development)
  • Production (lighting, sound, computer equipment, technical labor)
  • Travel and hotel (for guest speakers, performers, or special guests)
  • Insurance (for example, liability should someone be hurt due to your organization’s negligence)
  • Food and beverages (including permits for sale or serving of alcohol, if necessary, corkage charge, make sure food quote includes tax and gratuity charges)
  • Décor (centerpieces, rented tables and chairs, linens, pop-up banners)
  • Miscellaneous (prizes, awards, name badges, signs, T-shirts)
  • Office expenses (supplies for day of event/registration)
  • All other staff expenses (event manager)

After the expenses have been established, next focus on the income and what needs to be done to bring in the income.  The general categories may include the following:

  • Individual ticket sales
  • Table or group sales
  • Exhibitors
  • Benefactor, patron, and sponsor donations (for which donors receive special recognition in return for contributing higher amounts than a basic table or seat costs)
  • Sponsorships (create packages that give a great bang for the buck, that is what companies are looking for right now) 
  • Food and/or beverage sales
  • Sales of goods and/or services
  • Advertising sales (in printed programs, on banners, and so on)
  • Purchasing a chance (raffle tickets, door prizes, silent auction)

It is also critically important to create or update a list of potential sponsors and assign committee members to contact potential sponsors regarding the event and being a sponsor.  As it gets closer to the event and the committee will be meeting weekly therefore continue to monitor the income to date versus expenses to date and what is still anticipated to keep everyone on track. 

Knowing where you stand to date and in comparison to the previous year (if conducting a repeat event) will aid the Chairperson in having to make last minute decisions when faced with unanticipated additional expenses. Having this road map encourages strategic thinking to compensate for these unplanned expenses that might allow you to recoup the additional cost before the event takes place (i.e. additional sponsorship, raffle, auction, etc.)

If as an Event Chair you don’t know where you stand against the overall objective, then making these late in the game calls may negatively impact the desired end result of the event.  Therefore, establishing and continuing to update an event budget helps keep the Chair and Committee focused on the larger vision while they are in the trenches executing the necessary myriad of details.